What was wrong with Showgirls? When I say “do badly”, I mean in terms of sale, critical reception and being remembered as a horrible movie.
It made 37M$ from a 45M$ budget. As a point of comparison, Striptease, which came out a year later, made 113M$ out of a budget of 40M$.
They were both panned but only Showgirls seems to have gone down in infamy rather than oblivion. It also did not kill Demi Moore’s career, unlike Elizabeth Berkley’s.
Verhoeven usually does schlocky stuff well.
There were also plenty of bad movies coming out in the 90s. I remember (for I was a teenager than and this was because widespread Internet use) that plenty of movies made in the 90s had scenes or elements which were thinly veiled softcore porn inserted as fan service. Yet few such movies were reviled as Showgirls was.
My personal hypothesis is that Verhoeven has a habit of making satires which are archetypal examples of what they satirize and can be enjoyed as such but also enjoyed as satires. Perhaps mixing two levels is more difficult when it centers on sex. Perhaps it comes off as disingenuous to satirize how sex sells while also using sex to sell. But then, what about using violence to sell?
Verhoeven has a very peculiar idea of what comprises satire. It looks a lot like shitty writing, acting and story development.
I think** BE** hit the main reason, though. Elizabeth Berkley was a shallow, vapid little bitch who alternated between stomping her foot in opposition and flouncing off stage left, then knuckling under to whoever was manipulating her. Lather, rinse, repeat for two hours plus. Nothing likeable or appealing or even intriguing about her.
The film already had limited audience potential by going hard-hard R, dancing on the edge of NC17 or X. And then having rounded up that audience and paid off with nonstop bare tits, they made them watch a bitchy little teen emote. But it was all satire, you see.
I agree with the OP that Verhoeven makes “satires which are archetypal examples of what they satirize” - and if people don’t quite grok both levels of the movie, they find it shallow. Apparently too many people missed the subtlety of this one.
I’ve always been a fan of both satire and shallow exploitation movies, and I enjoyed Showgirls on both levels. I don’t know if I’d put it up there with Starship Troopers and RoboCop, but I thought he succeed at making a decent self-aware homage. I still say “Ver-sase” to myself when I see the designer’s name!
Uh, if you say so. Sometimes a cigar is just a dried-out piece of rope stogie.
Compare it with Boogie Nights, which is much the same take and IMVHO far more successful at dryly satirizing the whole world of live and filmed porn, and Showgirls gets even more shallow and pointless.
Exactly. “Satire” my ass. Verhoeven just generally sucks donkey balls. The only reason people claim his movies are satire is that he actually made a very good action movie that had many satirical elements. A. Singular. That exhausted his lifetime supply of satire, along with talent.
“Showgirls” was badly written, badly directed, badly cast, badly acted, and generally sucked like a Hoover. That’s why it did so badly.
I’ve never seen either movie, but in terms of box office one obvious difference is that Showgirls was rated NC-17 while Striptease was rated R. Teenagers who wanted to see a stripper movie could get into Striptease if accompanied by an adult, but admission to Showgirls was limited strictly to people ages 17 and up.
Also Striptease, while a crappy film overall, mostly didn’t take itself too seriously and was loosely based on a ( far superior ) Carl Hiaasen novel. It had its low-key amusing moments. And reasonably well-known Demi Moore stripping was a big part of its marketing and hence drew some eyeballs.
Old-timer posters Cervaise and lissener in particular were ultimately fierce defenders of Showgirls as a subversive satire, one that was arguably pretty cruel to its lead as part of the process. Those interested can do a search to bring up those old contentious threads. I think their arguments may actually have some academic merit, but at the end of the day even if they were correct I don’t think that translates into Showgirls being entertaining. Actually I’m not sure they argued otherwise, either. However smart or bad it is or isn’t, it really just isn’t fun for the masses in any way. It even too ridiculous and awkward to be titillating. Hence box office failure.
Just hijacking to say that my wife and I played blackjack until the wee hours of the morning with several of the crew and minor actors while Showgirls was filming. It was a great night where the table was pretty magical, most everyone won a bit, and you didn’t want to leave because it was so fun.
Most satire invites the audience in on the joke. You recognize what’s being satirized, and you get to laugh with the artist at the object of the satire.
Verhoeven, I think, genuinely dislikes his audience and their terrible tastes. When he does a satire, he tries to make it just competent enough a member of its genre that people will superficially like it, so that he can make fun of them for liking it. You don’t get to laugh with him; he’s laughing at you, but it’s bitter humorless laughter.
I don’t think he’s an incompetent director, but I don’t much like his stuff.